EU will provide €1 bln to Egyptian microenterprises in 2024: EU Ambassador to Cairo

Ahram Online , Friday 29 Mar 2024

The EU will provide one billion euros to finance microenterprises in Egypt during 2024 as long-term loans with low-interest rates, EU Ambassador to Cairo Christian Berger said in an interview with Al Arabiya Business.

Christian Berger
File Photo: EU Ambassador to Cairo, Christian Berger. Photo courtesy of European Union.


Berger noted that this financing comes under the €7.4 billion ($8.1 billion) Strategic Comprehensive Partnership agreement signed between Egypt and the European Union as part of the aid and investment package the EU pledged to Cairo in early March.

He explained that Egypt and the European Union will hold an economic conference at the end of June, which focuses on renewable energies, green hydrogen, and other sectors, representing huge investment opportunities for European companies in Egypt

Berger told Al Arabiya Business that holding the economic conference in Egypt at the end of June is one of the first steps towards implementing the March agreements between the two sides.

He added that full details concerning the conference's agenda and the topics to be discussed will be disclosed soon.

Furthermore, Berger said the conference would explore opportunities to export electricity to Europe and support the Egyptian private sector.

He said the European Union intends to provide another €4 billion to Egypt as part of the financing package that extends over three years - from 2025 to 2027.

Berger also noted the ongoing discussions with Egypt on how to make the country more stable economically, thus enabling it to address surrounding conflicts, political disruptions, and economic challenges.

He affirmed that while this process is arduous and time-consuming, the EU always considers Egypt's needs and collaborates with Cairo on promising investment projects.

The EU ambassador added that discussions are underway with the Egyptian government on how to support private companies, adding that some ideas have already been considered to create a climate in Egypt favourable to investment and conducive to the thriving of the private sector.

Moreover, Berger explained that the two sides have signed several Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) pending a comprehensive agreement regarding the announced financial support.

He also noted that the two sides are discussing technical agreements related to loan interest rates, loan extensions, and the sectors in which these loans will be used.

Similarly, Berger highlighted that the EU is working with Egypt to implement all recently signed agreements.

Aid package not connected to Gaza

On a different note, Berger told the Saudi News Channel that the financing agreed upon between the EU and Egypt has been long in preparation.

“The support provided to Egypt is not related to the Gaza issue, but rather stems from a belief in Egypt’s significance to the EU,” he said.

The EU is supporting Egypt because of the importance of the Suez Canal to the European Union and because Egypt is a stable country in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, noted Berger.

He explained Europe supports Egypt since it is a strategic partner and the largest investor in Egypt.

Berger stressed Europe shares many strategic goals with Egypt, thus culminating in the signing of this cooperation agreement.

He also drew attention to the fact that only a small portion of the funding to Egypt will be allocated to controlling irregular migration within the framework of a much larger collaboration on the migration file.

In addition, he outlined that the recent cooperation agreement with Egypt includes collaboration and coordination in six major areas -- including political cooperation.

Such agreements would lead, according to Berger, to upgrading the extant partnership with the EU to the level of strategic partnership between the two sides.

He also pointed out that according to the agreement a summit will be held every two years between Egypt and the EU to review the progress on cooperation files.

Applauding economic reform

Speaking of Egypt’s recent economic reforms, Berger said the measure of success in liberalizing the exchange rate is the continuity or absence of a black market.

“I believe that Egypt has succeeded in eliminating it after the flotation decision,” he said.

Berger, however, expressed concern over the impact of the Red Sea attacks on tourism in Egypt, stressing that any disruptions in the Middle East tend to impact tourism adversely.

He noted that despite the recent events in the region, Egypt has received a reasonable number of foreign tourists, and he hoped that tourism would be spared more harmful consequences.  

In this regard, Berger highlighted the role of the EU in countering the attacks in the Red Sea by deploying four warships to assist in stopping Houthi attacks on commercial ships.

“We hope this military mission will help Egypt, which depends heavily on the Suez Canal, tourism, and remittances from Egyptians abroad as primary sources of foreign currency,” he concluded.

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